Making Electrons Count (part 3 of 11)


Whirlwind has been involved in more than a hundred such computations problems, originating in many different departments of M. I. T. Take the Geology department, for example.

Seismic methods of prospecting for oil may seem a little strange to the onlooker.

A charge is exploded at one point, and the sound, reflected from various underground layers of rock, is

121 recorded at a number of other points. A great deal of information about underground formations can be determined from these sound patterns, but only after long and tedious computations have been performed on them.
122 M. I. T.'s numerically controlled milling machine provides quite a different problem.
123 Punched paper tape instructs it to cut the contours required in cams, templates and the like, the contours specified by formulas, or by sets of points, are resolved into a series of straight-line cuts with suitable allowance for the tool-center offset.
124 The endpoints of these successive straight lines are computed and recorded directly on tape by Whirlwind I.
125 Many of these final products are precision parts for airplanes. Another Whirlwind program for computing the gust loads on airplanes has assisted aeronautical wind-tunnel research at the M. I. T. Supersonic Laboratory.
126 M. I. T.'s Chemistry department has used Whirlwind to determine the behavior of metals from the optical properties of very thin films of these metals.
127 Note Of all the applications for which Whirlwind has been used, few have done more to improve man's lot than one involving the design of an optical instrument to be used in research to aid the human eye. But let's not get ahead of our story.


Credits and Notice:

The MIT Museum has kindly granted permission for me to reproduce these extracts from the 1953 film on MIT Project Whirlwind,"Making Electrons Count." The permission is governed by an agreement between Daniel P. B. Smith and the MIT Museum, and covers publication at this Web site only. Individuals may view this material at this Web site, Any other use requires permission from the MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307.

The original film credits contain no date or copyright notice and reads, in full:

The Digital Computer Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Presents "Making Electrons Count: Solving a Problem on M.I.T.'s Electronic Digital Computer 'Whirlwind I.' Sponsored by: Office of Naval Research. Physicist played by Dean N. Arden. Script by Edwin S. Kopley. Photographed and Directed by Lloyd G. Sanford.

--Daniel P. B. Smith,